Vanilla is a common flavouring agent that is commonly used in ice creams, baked goods and confectionaries, candies, a wide range of beverages and more. It is derived from the orchids of the genus Vanilla. It is the only orchid that bear fruit out of the many orchid species. They originate from Central and South America, mostly Mexico and Guatemala, where they were highly valued in ancient times. Today, vanilla is commonly grown in countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, Madagascar, India, the Comoros islands and Reunion.
There are four main types of vanilla beans available in the market today, namely Bourbon vanilla, which is grown in Madagascar, Comoros and Reunion; Mexican vanilla, which is grown exclusively in Mexico; Java vanilla, which is grown in Java, Indonesia; and Bourbon-like vanilla, which is grown in Bali, Indonesia. Imitation vanilla is easy to make, and hence, widely available and used in different food products. Instead of using real vanilla beans, imitation vanilla is often used by many companies.
Apart from being used as a flavouring agent in ice cream and baked goods, vanilla is a great addition in fruit dishes as well as for marinating meat such as chicken and pork.